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The Charlottetown Islanders have lived through mortgaging a bit of the future without a massive fall from the top.
Four years ago, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League squad dove deep into the cupboard to acquire veterans for what was hoped to be a deep playoff run in 2017. The team got to the semifinal for the first time in franchise history, but the price was steep. Their three previous first-round picks plus two future firsts, two seconds and more were sent to other teams to bolster the roster.
The final traded pick (the second-round selection sent to Sherbrooke for defenceman Carl Neill) will be used today.
“The initial reaction is a bit of a sigh of relief that you did manage to get through it, but on the same hand, we haven’t reached our ultimate goal of a championship yet,” head coach and general manager Jim Hulton said. “You feel a little bit like you’ve dodged a complete tear down (and) build back up.”
The team made it back to the third round of the playoffs in 2018 before losing in Game 7. The retool began in 2018-19 with the trade of veterans Pierre-Olivier (P.O.) Joseph, Keith Getson and Derek Gentile. But instead of only taking picks in return, the deals included some key players that came in and helped the team remain strong. Charlottetown finished sixth overall and was eliminated in the first round of the 2019 playoffs.
They were seventh overall when the 2019-20 regular season was halted due to the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic with four games to play.
The team doesn’t have a first-round pick this year. It was traded in August for defenceman Oscar Plandowski, who played lots this season as a 16-year-old.
But the cupboard includes two firsts, two seconds and a third in 2021 plus all their own picks in 2022 (except a second) and 2023.
“Time will tell, (but) we think we’re in a position here to be a really good team the next couple of seasons and maybe have (been able to) avoid that penthouse-to-outhouse scenario that a lot of teams go through,” Hulton said.
“It’s nice to see that last pick finally get used (on Saturday) and look forward on our draft board and see some extra picks as opposed to holes.”